Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, a highly divisive first-time candidate who waged a scorched-earth battle for the presidency, shocked the world by narrowly beating his far more experienced Democratic challenger, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The victory, sealed with a concession phone call from Clinton early Wednesday, amounts to one of the most stunning upsets in political history...
"I've just received a call from Secretary Clinton," he told supporters at New York's Hilton hotel. "She congratulated us, it's about us, on our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard fought campaign."
"Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time and we owe her a major debt of gratitude," he continued. "Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division ... It's time for us to come together as one united people."
Trump’s margin of his victory in rural and suburban counties overwhelmed Clinton’s advantages among more educated, diverse and urban supporters, carrying him to a narrow win. But after relying on intense support from largely white, non-college educated voters to carry him to the White House, President-Elect Trump will now face the difficult task of leading a deeply divided and increasingly diverse United States.
People watch voting results at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event in New York City. Image: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Trump: The Candidate
We’ve never seen a candidate like Trump before, one who operated without rules or regard for polling-friendly messages. By tapping into the energy of countless disaffected Americans left behind and disgusted by the current political system, he single-handedly realigned a major political party. Tens of millions of voters viewed him as the human embodiment of a welcome wrecking ball aimed at Washington.
Largely as a result of Trump’s ugly campaign, the country was dragged through the mud of a dark political fight brimming with insults, graphic sexual assault allegations and a paucity of substantive policy proposals. This was the election in which the word “pussy” became unavoidable, in which reporters were threatened, in which individuals with disabilities were mocked and ordinary citizens were routinely roughed up when protesting at political rallies.
President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist after giving his acceptance speech, with his wife Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump next to him. Image: AP
Whose Republican Party?
The campaign cleaved open fissures that will have a lasting impact, making the country even more difficult to govern. Trump’s voting bloc is now much more than a protest movement.
“They’ve been there for a while in terms of this insurgency, and it’s been fed by the right and nurtured by the right, and now this has happened as a result of that,” said James Glaser, a professor of political science and dean of the college of arts and sciences at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Trump supporters react as they watch the election results during Trump's election night rally in New York. Image: John Locher/AP
Throughout the primaries and the general election, Trump maintained a vague set of policy positions that many in his own party recoiled against. His platform and conduct during the campaign forced some Republicans to run against him or cease supporting him.
His positions, to the extent that he actually expressed any, stood in stark contrast to the views of many younger voters, and his victory marks the embrace of an apocalyptic vision of an ailing America more than it does the rejection of any specific platform. The picture of America that Trump painted was grim, and as he told it, only he could restore the country’s “greatness.”
Trump never presented a clear platform of policies that he’d have to follow through on, besides a few staples of his stump speech. “He’ll have to deliver on those very big things and I think he’s inclined to,” Glaser said. “He’s pretty fuzzy on the rest of what he would do and that would give him some freedom, freedom to be unpredictable and freedom to not be too ideological.”
“I think it’s hard to predict exactly what a Trump administration would be like,” Glaser said.
Lynn Vavreck, a political science professor at UCLA who is writing a book about the 2016 election, said of Trump’s supporters, “I’m not sure they have a collective identity beyond Trump voters.”
That uncertainty and lack of concrete policy means, in a real sense, that voters who chose Trump may not have had a clear idea what they were signing up for.
For younger voters, the contrasts between Trump’s policy proposals and their ideological preferences show up most clearly when it comes to five key issues: immigration, the environment, equality, education and criminal justice reform.
A hard line on immigrants
From day one of his campaign, Trump placed combating illegal immigration at the top of his agenda, conveniently riding atop an ugly wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that has flowed through parts of the Republican Party in recent years. Trump’s policy proposals on this issue have been simplistic and, at times, blatantly racist, from the border wall with Mexico — part of nearly every stump speech despite Trump’s reputation as a notoriously off-script candidate — to the Muslim immigration ban.
The border wall was a central plank of Trump’s campaign starting on June 16, 2015, when he and his wife Melania descended the escalators at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy. During a meandering, off-the-cuff speech, Trump denounced Mexican immigrants and insisted that his negotiating prowess would force Mexico to pay for a new border wall.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you,” Trump told his supporters.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
At various points during the campaign, Trump ability to fairly rule on a case involving his business, called for a “deportation force” to send illegal immigrants back to their home country, and was accused of fat-shaming a Miss Universe contestant from Venezuela.
Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at the J.S. Dorton Arena on November 7, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
For the approximately 10.9 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., Trump’s policy proposals would provide no route to citizenship without first leaving the country and applying to return legally. He assailed his primary opponents for what he labeled as supporting “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship.
Vagueness on LGBTQ issues
Trump has been difficult to pin down on the issue of marriage equality. However, the positions he has taken — or has occasionally expressed an openness to considering — show he would not continue the advances made in marriage equality and LGBTQ issues under the Obama administration. In many cases, in fact, he would likely reverse the decisions Obama made.
He has expressed support for a controversial state law, known as House Bill 2, in North Carolina that discriminates against transgender people by eliminating anti-discrimination protection under state law for transgender individuals. The law mandates that in government buildings, people must use the bathrooms and changing facilities, such as locker rooms, matching the sex that is listed on their birth certificates.
“I’m going with the state. The state, they know what’s going on, they see what’s happening and generally speaking I’m with the state on things like this. I’ve spoken with your governor, I’ve spoken with a lot of people and I’m going with the state,” he in July.
Perhaps the greatest indication of Trump’s stances on LGBTQ issues was his choice of running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The Human Rights Campaign “The face of anti-LGBTQ discrimination” for signing a law allowing businesses in the state to refuse to offer services to LGBTQ people “because of who they are or whom they love.”
Pence is also one of the staunchest opponents to abortion rights, threatening as a congressman to shut down the government over federal funding for the health care provider Planned Parenthood. As governor, he signed a bill that would have required the burial of all fetal remains — even if a woman experiences a miscarriage. A federal judge subsequently blocked that bill.
Reversing progress on the environment
A Trump administration would halt or reverse any forward momentum achieved during the Obama administration on issues like renewable energy and global warming. Trump has said he wants to get rid of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which would put limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants. That would make it nearly impossible for the U.S. to live up to the commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement, which entered into force just days prior to the election.
“We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payment of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs," Trump said on May 26.
Although the U.S. will still be part of the agreement for at least four years based on the treaty’s language, Trump can still slow down or halt the country’s emissions reductions in favor of a more fossil fuel-centric energy policy.
Trump only gave one energy policy speech during his campaign, and in it he sounded at times like an energy baron rather than a real estate executive.
Even though the added to the U.S. electrical grid in 2015 came from renewable sources such as wind and solar, Trump assailed wind turbines for killing birds, and implied that global warming is not a real concern.
“A Trump administration will focus on real environmental challenges, not the phony ones we’ve been looking at,” he said. He has also denied that global warming exists at all, let alone that it is a threat to take seriously.
Donald Trump speaks during his final campaign rally on Election Day in the Devos Place on November 8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Trump did, however, say he favors “clean air and water,” implying continued enforcement of other environmental regulations.
Hundreds of top scientists, including Stephen Hawking and former Obama energy secretary Steven Chu opposing Trump’s position that the U.S. pull out of the Paris agreement. Even China’s top climate official Trump’s head-in-the-sand stance in this issue.
Police violence and criminal justice reform
In contrast to Clinton, who outlined a detailed agenda for criminal justice reform, Trump never acknowledged the need to address racial disparities and biases in the justice system. Instead, he presented himself as the “law and order” candidate, reflexively backing police in controversial cases and accusing Democrats and the Black Lives Matter movement of turning their backs on law enforcement.
Trump is also a proponent of the use of “stop and frisk” policing techniques, which was ruled unconstitutional in New York City for discriminating against minorities.
Trump made clear that he would nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of former associate justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away suddenly last year. With an open seat on the court to begin his term (Republican senators had blocked a vote on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland), Trump would have that chance. He has said he would nominate a justice who would support overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S., as well as someone who would protect the right to bear arms.
America slid sideways and steeply downward during this election, as if afflicted by a virulent strain of political vertigo. Will the nation be able to stand up straight anytime soon after almost two years of back-breaking negativity?
With Trump, there was no playbook, no self-awareness, no standards to live up to and no floor too low to sink beneath. He brought us a surprise press conference featuring women accusing former president Bill Clinton of sexual assault or harassment, just before the second presidential debate and after a tape was released of his own boasting of routinely sexually assaulting women.
He banned several media outlets from covering his events during the course of the campaign, and on at least one occasion implicitly threatened the life of his opponent. He also vowed to prosecute her, if elected, over alleged wrongdoing in her private email server scandal when she was secretary of state.
Trump fused his personal business brand with his political operation, holding more than two-dozen campaign events at his businesses, including hotels and golf clubs. He openly lied so frequently that cable news networks began fact-checking him live, through the crawl of text running on the bottom of TV screens.
The ugliness brought to surface by the campaign will not magically disappear.
The fact that the election was close illustrates just how disliked and polarizing both Trump and Clinton were by the end of it. Trump’s rise reflects real schisms present in the U.S. and a disgust at the gap between the richest of the rich and the rest of the population. And for some, Trump articulated anxiety about the country’s increasing diversity.
All of these issues will need to be reckoned with by not only the nation, but the world.